Parshat Mishpatim – February 18, 2012

This Parsha, which immediately follows revelation at Mount Sinai,  includes 53 laws. Twenty three are positive commandments and thirty are prohibitions. This part of the Parsha is immediately followed by (Shemot 23:20 – 33) a promise that God is sending a “malach” (angel) to guide the Israelites to the promised land of Eretz Yisrael. The juxtaposition of a large amount of mitzvot with settling Israel is obviously intentional.

According to Rabbi Menachem Leibtag:

This conclusion points to the purpose of the entire unit. Bnei Yisrael must accept these laws that will shape their character as God’s special nation. If they obey them, God will assist Bnei Yisrael in the conquest of the Land.

Rabbi Eliezer Breitowitz has said that the Torah is prescription for a Utopian society, to be practiced ideally in Eretz Yisrael. The connection between the Torah, the land, and the people is a complete one and very much alluded to in these psukim. This promise still comes with an earthly effort – ‘hishtadlut’. Conquering the existing nations is part of the uncomfortable process of fulfilling God’s promise.

Here’s a recipe that is popular in Israel – and the surrounding region.

Jeannine’s Awesome Middle Eastern Inspired Beef with Chummus

(I’ve made a few changes, Jeannine, in case you don’t recognize some of the ingredients.)

(BTW, Jeannine is an awesome cook, artist, and potter – look at this mug she made for me!)

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chopped beef (this is flexible – can add more)
  • 4-6 teaspoons minced garlic – more if you’re very garlic-friendly
  • 1 teaspoon curry
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Sautee onion until translucent and add garlic.
  • Add beef and spices and brown. Cover pan and cook for an additional 20 – 30 minutes on a low heat.
  • Break up meat into chunks with a potato masher.

I know these ingredients aren’t exact but it’s a very forgiving recipe – trust me!

Chummus  (Hummus) (adapted from – thank you Sarah for finding this awesome recipe!)

  • 1 can chick peas (approximately 15 ounces)
  • 1/8 cup tachina (tahini)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 tablespoons water from the chick pea can (makes the chummus extremely light and cream)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place ingredients in the food processor and blend for a minute until creamy.

Recipe Number 2:

Among the 53 laws that are taught in this parsha, one addresses the liability that occurs from digging a pit, leaving it uncovered, and causing an animal to fall in and die.

Shemot 21:33-34 And if a person opens a pit, or if a person digs a pit and does not cover it, and a bull or a donkey falls into it,the owner of the pit shall pay; he shall return money to its owner, and the dead body shall be his.

(Kind of like ‘you broke it, you bought it,’ at Pottery Barn.) But why the repetition? Rashi asks why ‘a person digs’  is included in the Pasuk if we already know that a person has opened a pit. He answers that a person may have dug a pit that was capable of trapping an animal, but anybody who enlarged it is the liable one. Also, in 34, the ‘owner’ of the pit refers to anyone who dug the pit – even if it’s in a public space. The person who made that whole is responsible. Bulls and donkeys are examples – the liability refers to all domestic animals and beasts. This is a a fascinating concept because we learn that we are responsible for public spaces as well as private ones.

This recipe was inspired by the concept of an animal enclosed or trapped in a small space. An animal that wouldn’t have seen the pit and once inside, might not be seen himself. In other words — chicken balls.

And if a person opens a pit, or if a person digs a pit and does not cover it, and a bull or a donkey falls into it,the owner of the pit shall pay

Chinese Chicken Balls
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • eight chicken breasts cut up into cubes
  • a few shakes of Mrs. Dash
  • oil for frying


Mix all of the ingredients (except chicken). When the lumps disappear add the chicken and toss to coat. Fry in hot oil until crisp and brown. Yumm!

Serve with a sweet and sour sauce.



Filed under Mishpatim

4 responses to “Parshat Mishpatim – February 18, 2012

  1. MMM….Looks so delicious. Is the meat settled in the middle of the hummus supposed to represent the settling of the people on the land? If so, they are a spicy lot!

  2. LOL. Survival in the land of Israel has always required a ‘chareef’ nature. Some things never change:)

  3. Chana

    Suri, I’m loving your blog! I shared it with my weekly parsha group. Love, Chana

  4. I’m delighted Chana! Let me know if you try any of these recipes.

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